My aunt is a low wage worker, has been for many years. She doesn't really need to do it now, having retired, but she still does it because she doesn't like staying home.
In her many years doing jobs that Singaporeans don't like to do, like being a hawker assistant, chye tow kuay cook, clearing plates at a food court or fast food outlet, I have heard many stories of woe about the long hours and tough life.
Some employers take advantage of low wage workers like her, by doing things like making her work more than 12 hours a day, not paying for overtime, not giving paid public days, not granting sick leave, or not paying CPF on time (or not even paying CPF at all). And very often, many of these workers don't realize they have rights too, especially the older ones and the ones without formal education.
We keep an eye out for my aunt's rights, as her family, even though she works now to pass the time and meet people, but not everyone has family to protect them from unscrupulous employers.
My aunt has worked more than 12 hours many times in her previous jobs. It would have been good if someone had told her that was not allowed.
Once, she scalded her arm in the course of serving hot desserts. The boss paid for her to see a doctor but I don't think she was paid for the day she was on medical leave.
Other times, she gets bullied to come to work on days that other older workers don't want to work, even though she wasn't very much younger.
And not every employer she's had paid her CPF either. As if being paid so little isn't bad enough.
It's better now, she works for a big fast food chain that is more likely to follow the labour laws.
I was at Tiong Bahru Market last week, to watch a fun little musical number performed by theVoice, a community theatre group. They sang and danced to the song Jit Pa Ban, with new lyrics, to get the idea of workers' rights across, and to raise awareness of the WorkRight hotline (1800-221-9922). Everyone at the hawker centre watched with amusement, and gave them a hand at the end of the little show.
Hopefully, more workers will know their rights and how to protect themselves. If you are a friend or family member of someone who you know is being exploited, you can call the number too.
I was trolling the kids today, "So tomorrow you're going back to school ah? So tomorrow you're going back to school ah? So tomorrow you're going back to school ah?"
The kids replied, "So today you're going back to work ah?"
Kids 1 : Papa 0
I also got the Minecraft app for them finally, over the CNY weekend, after weeks of requests from the boy.
I bought it on the wife's iPad. The nice thing is that it is also on her iPhone so the two younger ones are playing on the same map together, quite value-for-money.
The downside is that I have to be the Police of Minecraft time.
After the first two days of CNY, I've come to the conclusion that kids can live on soft drinks and random CNY snacks. But if you hand them an iPad with Minecraft in it, they don't even need food and water.
Scientists, take note.
The kids have also become very sensitive to the health of our wifi internet connection. Over the weekend, our fibre broadband went down for a while and I had to declare, "Attention, members of this family who are currently online! The home internet connection seems to be down, I'm resetting the modem and router in 3… 2… 1…"
My two younger kids who were in the midst of their game cried out with the woeful wail of a thousand Minecraft zombies, "Papa! Nooooooo…"
I tried explaining that the internet was down anyway, so my resetting was meant to ensure that they could play on.
Like the kids, the wife is also on leave today, so she slept in a bit.
The wife told me Faith woke her up this morning and dragged her finger to the clock by our bed, as if to say, "Mommy, why aren't you going to work yet?"
My quiet autistic daughter surprises us all the time.
It is Sunday night and due to unforeseen circumstances, we didn't do our usual dinner at my in-laws'. So I gathered the brood and we trooped to the kopitiam downstairs to have dinner.
As head of the household, my default job is to go ahead of the party to chope a table. You need to do this when you have eight mouths to feed (wife, three kids, helper, Mom, Mom's sister and yourself).
And to ensure the speedy arrival of food because Mom has Qigong at 8pm, I ordered the food in advance (four chicken chops, four fish and chips from the "Western" food stall, because the zhichar stall looked busy).
When the gang arrived fifteen minutes after me, the food arrived too. We are a high-efficiency family, do things must chop-chop.
Then over dinner, Isaac asked me a burning question, "Papa, in your olden days, did you have TMNT?"
"Yes, I read Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics & oi, what 'olden days'? I not that old, ok?"
I also noticed Joy wearing cleaning gloves.
"Why are you wearing cloth cleaning gloves? Frozen ah?"
"Ya! I'm Queen Elsa!" she replied.
"Not Queen Susah ah?"
The whole family erupts with laughter at the kopitiam table, and my Mom laughed the loudest. Joy feigned annoyance but laughed too. Good girl. Kids must learn to laugh at themselves.
After dinner, Mom went to her Qigong and we dabao-ed the leftover fish and chips home. The wife and I double-checked if the kids had any homework left to do and I asked if the school bags were packed. No and Yes were the answers.
That done, I declared that bedtime of 9pm shall be adhered to, left the kids in the care of our helper, and whisked the wife away for a quick date, just a beer with some friends.
I got a little lost on the KPE to the Suntec area and entered what Miyagi calls The Wormhole.
You know you are lost when you drive and drive and go from the KPE to the MCE and when you exit, you see a giant cruise ship at a cruise ship terminal you didn't even know existed. And in the distance, the Singapore Flyer and CBD skyline looks so small.
A merry go round later, we finally get to Millenia Walk for a beer beneath the stars.
The night was 23°C and windy. Nippy and nice. We didn't even need to turn on the aircon later that night at home.
Rowdy family dinner, conversation with good friends, awesome weather: One cannot ask for a better way to end a Sunday evening.
Well played, The Tuckshop, for your beer special in "honour" of Anton Casey, the British national and private wealth manager in Singapore who referred to public transport commuters as "poor people" who contribute to the "stench of public transport".
Anton, who is a Senior Wealth Manager with Crossinvest Asia, has since apologized through his PR agency.
I couldn't stand it anymore and posted this status update on Facebook:
You know, Viralnova, Upworthy and other such "viral" sites, not every bloody post:
1. changes my life
2. changes the way I feel about (fill in the blank)
3. changes absolutely everything
4. shocks me
5. surprises me
6. blows me away
7. blows my mind
8. makes me cry
9. makes me weep
10. makes me curl up on the floor in a slobbering mess.
Special thanks to Daryl for his funny comment that has become this blog post's title.
And to Yinjie for this comment:
"I Thought I Was Just Reading A Status Update. By The Time I Reached The End, Tears Rolled Down My Eyes."
With an old school chum in town (he lives in the US now), the family and I took him to the National Museum, to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon there. I wish we had more time to walk Fort Canning Park too, but just seeing the museum was already good fun for the kids.
We didn't spend as much time at the 50 Years of Television exhibit (which seemed to me more like a milestone to signify the last days of Singapore TV: so long, and thanks for all the fish), but we did enjoy the rest of the exhibitions, like the Singapore art, photos and food one.
There was a couple taking wedding photos there, which attracted some attention from the gawking public, but it was mostly a quiet and relaxed group of visitors enjoying the ambiance of the hallowed halls.
After taking the photo above, it also occurred to me how fast my firstborn has grown. Faith is going to be taller than Mommy really soon. In fact, I think she is already wearing some of my wife's clothes.